Jung-Ju Lee: 'My studies and involvements on campus have helped me to discover my strengths in and passion for diplomacy and conflict resolution'

May 24, 2016

Jung-Ju Lee

GovernmentAsian Studies

Atlanta, GA

Why did you choose Cornell?

I always had an interest in international affairs that I never had an opportunity to explore in high school, so Cornell’s commitment to providing its students with a truly global experience made evident in the curriculum and diverse opportunities across disciplines played a big part in my decision. Cornell’s area studies and language programs in Asian Studies are also some of the best in the country, and its reputable international relations program, offered only as a minor, encourages you to explore global economics, history, anthropology, area studies -- among many others -- while gaining a broad understanding of political science.

What is your main Cornell extracurricular activity -- why is it important to you?

I dedicated a great deal of my time and energy to the Student Union and its Board of Directors, which governs Willard Straight Hall, Ho Plaza, and the Slope, in setting policies and allocating and regulating the use of student space on behalf of the student body. My undergraduate life outside of academics has been profoundly shaped by my involvement in the facilitation of student leadership and engagement on campus, and my engagement and learning really began with this organization. Its mission, to facilitate student dialogue and exposure to intellectual, cultural, and artistic diversity and immersion into experiential learning beyond academia, resonated deeply with my values and vision of student leadership on campus. I’ve been fortunate to work with so many genuine and authentically service-minded people, who have cemented my understanding of what it means to be a public servant.

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

It was when I realized less than a month before my LSAT exam last semester that I didn’t want to go to law school. It was the single most scary and exhilarating moment in my life, and it turned out to also be the best decision that I’ve ever made. My studies and involvements on campus have helped me to discover my strengths in and passion for diplomacy and conflict resolution in foreign affairs, and making this leap has been extremely rewarding and fulfilling. So many people at Cornell have stepped in to help to me through this entire process of starting on a new and exciting path, and the possibilities that I'm finally able to see are pretty breathtaking.

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?

Come to Cornell with a clean slate as though you’ve been given the opportunity to start everything anew – to newly discover the world, yourself and your passion. Leave behind all of your assumptions and understandings, because doing so will allow you to hear what your heart is saying to you. Cornell will challenge the limits of your beliefs and abilities, and if you aren’t open to being challenged in every direction, you will miss an extremely important opportunity to discover yourself. And when you do, I hope you realize that there is an amazing selflessness that is inherent to all of us as we search for meaning in our lives and that we discover this meaning when we commit ourselves to a life-long journey of serving others and the global community.

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